The email I received, which was sent in reply to my email informing Raphael Slawinski that Greg Boswell and I intended to go to The Headwall to attempt Dawn of the Dead, made me smile.
“The whole route goes on gear, you don’t need to clip the bolts. Just saying.”
“Every route Greg and I have climbed in Scotland goes on gear; we don’t need practice at placing gear. Just saying.”
“Well I don’t suppose you will be clipping any of those bolts then?”
“Oh contrary, we will be clipping all of them, being safe in winter is a novelty!”
My friend Raphael is something of an enigma; this is possibly why he is my friend. A few years back, reaching the point where he had climbed all of the routes on the Stanley Headwall, including many first ascents, he decided to take the challenge farther by climbing Dawn of the Dead, a one hundred and forty five metre M8+ WI6, (Scottish tech 10) without clipping any of the bolts. To top this, when abseiling, he made ice v-threads alongside bolted anchors while his partner, Steve Swenson, who is no slouch when it comes to bold and out there, reportedly looked on shaking his head.
I really like this story, it shows fortitude. It also shows massive OCD which warms the heart and goes a little to making me think I am reasonably balanced!
The temperature leaving the car yesterday morning was -26, which warmed to a luxurious -18 while we were climbing.
At seven pm, having climbed Dawn of the Dead, Greg Boswell and I followed our own deep footsteps steps cut into the side of the snowslope beneath the crag. A Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep or even a Cougar had taken advantage of our steps. No, wind, not even a flicker and in the cold, the stars are crackling silver foil and the full moon lights the iridescent ice candles that speak to us from high – the glowing is calling, calling us to challenge ourselves in some basic ancient ritual. ‘The route goes on gear.’
The temperature remained constant on the drive. The road was tyre wide strips of dry tarmac surrounded by a curtain of slithering snow. Parking at the Alpine Clubhut in Canmore, the temperature once again dipped into the -20’s. The route may go, ‘all on gear,’ but not today, every one of those bolts was clipped and very grateful we were for them all. Maybe our calling is for another day. Maybe not…